Where does one start with all these local breweries?
For folks living in or visiting Loudoun County, local breweries are as active and popular as local wineries. There are 23 local breweries and three more making preparations to open. With so many of these establishments, each location has still found a way to stand out and appeal to the community. Local breweries and craft beer can be a charming and diverse experience.
For those that don’t frequent the beer scene, here are a couple basic things to know going in.
When selecting a location in Loudoun County, there are three basic styles; urban, small town, and farm breweries.
Matt Leonard, founder of Brewdoun.com, a website promoting local breweries, shared the advantages of these urban establishments.
“They are easier to get to and have an active, populated scene. They often provide a breath of fresh air in a community saturated by industrial, warehouse, and office space,” said Leonard.
Families typically gravitate towards urban breweries, primarily located in eastern Loudoun. Sweetwater Tavern in Sterling offers handcrafted beers year-round.
On the weekends, live music and food trucks are part of guest treatment at many eastern Loudoun breweries.
Old Ox Brewery in Ashburn is located right off the W&OD trail and provides entertainment with indoor corn hole, an outdoor patio, and plenty of board games.
Small town breweries are typically nestled in Leesburg and Purcellville.
“They offer the opportunity to enjoy excellent craft breweries in a quaint, small-town setting,” Leonard said. “Any folks out for a visit for the day won’t be disappointed with these conveniently located brewery clusters. Their proximity to one another makes it easy to do a mini brew tour.”
Though each small-town brewery will offer a unique experience, they all manage small town hospitality. Black Walnut Brewery in downtown Leesburg is around the corner to three other locations. With access to the W&OD trail, the cozy establishment has an outdoor, covered sitting area ideal for families and dog owners.
The farm breweries are in central and western Loudoun. “The farm breweries tap into the deep agricultural heritage of Northern Virginia,” Leonard said. “These breweries satisfy the need for open space and their beers are crafted using products from the land around them.”
Old 690 Brewing Company is an active 10-acre farm brewery in Hillsboro with live music, adult beer slushies, and goodies for kids. Farm breweries offer pleasant views, space for children to run around, and an escape from the daily hustle. Farm breweries are a great destination for folks looking to not just drink beer, but also have an experience.
After deciding on an ideal destination one can select their beer. Most locations offer a tasting flight which is a good way to try what the brewery has on tap. Below are the basic styles of craft beer.
IPA: The India Pale Ale is an American style beer characterized by floral, fruity, or citrus hop character. When it comes to the IPA, it is all about hop flavor and bitterness. The other well-known style is the double IPA (aka DIPA or Imperial IPA.) If one discovers they like the bitter and hoppy notes in the IPA, they will want to give the DIPA a try.
With every brewery offering at least one notable IPA, there are multiple locations that specialize in top-notch IPA’s. An IPA tour to try all the different styles out there would be a worthy outing.
Loudoun Brewing Company in downtown Leesburg is one example of more experimental, adventurous IPA’s. Customers love their Loud and Brewing IPA, balanced, citrusy, and always a top seller.
For those new to the world of IPA’s, Solace Brewing Company in Dulles focuses on creating more approachable beers with lower alcohol content. An example of this is their crisp Session IPA, Sun’s Out, Hops Out. They also offer Leg Day, the double IPA version, available for those wanting more of a punch.
Jack’s Run Brewing Company in downtown Purcellville created their Afterburner Mango-Habanero IPA, which took their house style IPA to the next level. A crowd favorite, the locals love the bite the habanero provides.
Ales: Pale ales, blonde ales, brown ales, cream ales, Irish red ales, and Scottish ales are some of the many ales a visitor can encounter at local breweries. It should also be noted that there is a wide variety of taste difference in this category. In order to keep things simple, ales in general are known for having more complex flavors but are not as bitter as IPAs.
Many of the ales such as the Irish red and Scottish ale have a nice malt profile that provides a pleasant drinking experience.
Dirt Farm Brewing in Bluemont won the 2016 Virginia Craft Brewer’s Cup Gold Medal for their Red Merl Irish Red Ale. Additionally, their Tart 31 Cherry Ale has become the location’s flagship beer created from their homegrown Montmorency cherries.
Quattro Goomba’s Brewery in Aldie is best known for offering a variety of beer styles that appeal to the many preferences of their guests. The location highlights their blonde ale, called 20152, as one of the gateway brews they keep on tap for guests that are not self-described beer drinkers.
Pilsners and Lagers: Pilsners (originating in the Czech Republic) are tangy and light much like lagers that are clean and crisp. Both are an ideal selection for someone new to the world of beer. They are usually higher in carbonation and most breweries will try to keep a lager or pilsner on tap for customers desiring a softer drinking experience.
Corcoran Brewing Company in Purcellville (soon transitioning over to B Chord Brewing in Round Hill) has this style nailed with their Berlin Turnpike Lager. Using a German pilsner malt the location has created a light gold, crisp beverage that locals rave about.
Stouts and Porters: Stouts are rich, bold, and dry roasted with chocolate and coffee notes. Porters are brewed with malted barley often bringing out more of the roasted malt flavor but the line can be blurred between the two styles.
Adroit Theory Brewing Company in Purcellville, known for making choice experimental beers, recently added their Russian Imperial Stout, Death of Cthulhu. Aged in Myers Dark Rum barrels and finished in local Catoctin Creek’s Whiskey barrels, the beer packs a 12.1% punch for alcohol content.
Belgian-Style: Tripel, Witbier, and Saison are some examples of Belgian-Style beers local breweries are inclined to include in their rotation. The Belgian Tripel is higher in alcohol content with more malt sweetness. The Witbier falls into the family of wheat beers and the Saison, though named by the French, actually got its start in rural Belgian.
Vanish Farmwoods Brewery in Leesburg offers a long tap list with a fan favorite being their Wraith Belgian Witbier, a light, and easy beer.
Though Crooked Run (with a location in Leesburg and Sterling) is well known for putting out exquisite IPA’s, they received a gold medal at the World Beer Cup in 2016 for their Supernatural Hibiscus Saison.
German-Style: Kolsch, Bock, Hefeweizen, Rauchbier are many of the German styles seen locally. From the highly carbonated, fruity Hefeweizen to the malty, nutty character of the Bock, there is a wide variety of tasting opportunities with German beers.
Twinpanzee Brewing Company, a newly opened location in Sterling, will soon be releasing a fan favorite, “GF Punched Hefe,” a Hefeweizen brewed with lots of fresh grapefruit zest.
Black Hoof Brewing Company in downtown Leesburg and Barnhouse Brewery in Northern Leesburg are both known for brewing up some excellent German beers. Black Hoof currently has on tap their Full Quiver Marzen, an award-winning German amber lager, and Barnhouse is currently offering their signature Kittocton Kolsch.
Sours: Many sour beers are fermented using a strain of Brettanomyces, a bastard cousin of brewer’s yeast that was originally discovered on fruit peels. The beers are exactly as described, sour and unique.
Beltway Brewing Company in Sterling balanced tartness with an array of hops and created Hansel Sour IPA, a hoppy, sour, and well-loved beer.
Gluten-Reduced: Some local breweries have begun using an enzyme called Brewers Clarex that can break down gluten during fermentation without impacting the integrity of the final product.
Though a few breweries have begun including Clarex in some of their craft brews, Belly Love Brewing Company in downtown Purcellville offers many varieties of gluten reduced beer to their customers. The Duchess Belgian Tripel made with cranberry and hibiscus and their Narcissist German lager is both highly sought after at the location.
No matter the destination, visiting a local brewery is almost always a community experience.
“Whether you are new to beer or an expert, you are bound to find a favorite place for a pint with friends,” Matt Leonard stated.
For more information or to plan a mini brew tour, visit Brewdoun.com.